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Brigadier Stephen McMahon CBE

03 July 2015

A South Cerney-based British Army officer who forged the coalition of top international agencies in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, is to be recognised with a CBE in the latest Operational Honours and Awards list for his ‘force of character and inspired leadership’, it has been announced.

Brigadier Stephen McMahon CBE, 104 Logistic Support Brigade, successfully established the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force Headquarters (JIATF HQ) having deployed with a small HQ at two days’ notice, with minimal resources, ahead of the deployment of its DfID (Department for International Development) lead.

In his role as Joint Commander Military Component, he successfully forged almost 1000 personnel into a coherent team, building up trust that helped bond an international coalition of Sierra Leone ministries, agencies and armed forces with international volunteers, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the UN.

A difficult virus to beat

“What we saw when we arrived was a country in chaos, that was really struggling to combat this deadly virus, a difficult virus to beat. What we were able to do was bring some stability and bring some hope to the country, and what we saw was the coherent coordination of the attack against the virus.”

Brigadier McMahon, 47, and his team deployed in September 2014 with a team of engineers who constructed six 100-bed Ebola hospitals and a team of medics. They joined the fight alongside infanteers, communicators, helicopter crews and the sailors on board RFA Argus.

“Ebola hasn’t gone from West Africa, and I really take my hat off to all those people involved in it, particularly the NGOs, the civil servants, the people from the DfID who have done a fantastic job to combat this. We were there to help them, to try and make things easy for them.”

Tireless drive

His citation states: “With clarity of thought and the vision to look through the immediate problems and dangers, he quickly identified what needed to be done and, with calm efficiency and tireless drive, got on with it.

“His close report with the President of Sierra Leone has been pivotal, and McMahon’s provision of helicopters to allow him to visit the remote but critical parts of his country was decisive in building trust and confidence in the Government’s plan,” it says.

Brigadier McMahon said: “It’s an honour to be recognised. I’m delighted for everyone, the 55 people who were honoured in today’s list, across the operational theatres of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and around the world.

“It’s always great to see our people, who are brilliant, getting recognised for the hard work they do, and all the great things they’re up to around the world. It’s really humbling to see that and it’s a real honour to be part of it.”

The announcement was made on 2 July 15 with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list, which includes 55 personnel. The awards are principally for actions on Op GRITROCK in Sierra Leone and Op HERRICK in Afghanistan, and cover the period 1 July to 31 December 2014.

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